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Mariners flirt with normal over-.500 baseball, get seduced by old flame Chaos Ball

M’s walk off extra innings thriller over first-place Oakland, return to winning record

Oakland Athletics v Seattle Mariners
You know Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown and Walt “No Neck” Williams, now meet Tom “Wild Eyes” Murphy
Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

The signs were there early: the first pitch of the game hitting Mark Canha, only for him to be erased from the bases on a topsy-turvy double play by JP Crawford the very next pitch; the cackle from Jake Fraley as he took yet another walk in his first PA since April 6; the Mariners getting on the board thanks to a bottom-of-the-order bat’s first blast in the bigs.

Nothing about this game was ever going to be straight forward.

Nevertheless, I felt a nagging sense of normalcy in the early innings, with runners reaching and occasionally getting into third, only to be stranded on base. I was fully prepared to write a recap of yet another losing game in which the Mariners relentlessly left their digits on the table for Ms. Winning Record, only for the busser to sweep up the napkin and toss it out with the trash.

Even still, between a stellar start from Logan Gilbert, his first quality start recorded in the major leagues, Donovan Walton’s three-run homer, and Kyle Lewis’ RBI double, the Mariners could have gone the easy route. They could have held off the Athletics 4-2 and called it a day. With fewer relievers on the covid-related IL, they may have done just that.

Instead, with just the slightest twitch of his shoulders, JT Chargois cut the lead to one run on a balk in the eighth and promptly gave up a double to Sean Murphy for the tie. The Mariners threatened but couldn’t respond in the home eighth or ninth, but survived the Rafael Montero Experience for yet another night to send the game to extras.

In a showdown between two players I barely knew existed prior to this game, Aramis Garcia singled off of Daniel Zamora to send home Rob Man- excuse me, Matt Olson, from second for a lead that felt inevitable and insurmountable.

Not inclined to go 0-for-5, professional hitter Ty France wrested the victory from Oakland’s grasp on a scorching grounder past a diving Chad Pinder to tie the game once again. Chaotic to be sure, but what followed was a complete unraveling of normalcy that made it clear the Mariners had forgotten all about prim and proper Ms. Winning Record and lashed their fate to their former love, Chaos Ball.

After a one-in-a-million error by Matt Olson sent Ty to third and JP to second, the A’s chose to place OBP god Jake Fraley (who went 2-for-3 with 2 walks, including the IBB, in his return) on the open base to create an opportunity for the forceout.

It wouldn’t come to matter, however, as the soul of Lou Trivino was annihilated immediately upon the sight of the physical avatar of Khaos, first among the Protogenoi of Greek mythology, that formless void from which the worlds were born:

Sac fly to right, Ty France scores. Mariners win, 6-5. Out of disorder, order.

Chaos Ball, of course, gives and takes away. Today the price of victory was at least some of the progress Kyle Lewis had made on his knee since returning from the IL toward the end of April.

Less significant, but no less the price of chaos, Gilbert didn’t get awarded the win today. Instead that goes (cruelly) to Zamora, but LoGi recorded 6 IP with 2 runs on 5 hits and just one walk, compared to 5 K, marking easily his best start of the season, and one that built on both his past struggles and successes.

The Mariners have now won seven of their last eight with nearly the same cast of characters that dropped six in a row. They now sit above .500 over one-third of the way through the season. Don’t get me wrong, this is still the same team that has already been no-hit twice before June, and if the prospect of contention is lurking in the back of your brain, snuff out that thought before it eats you alive. But when this crew is on (and they are most certainly on right now) they piece together some of the most fun games to watch in recent memory.

Old Wild Eyes Murphy told media today that his demented looking celebration face stems from a stern talking-to by Seager to get back to having fun on the field.

It’s certainly not from the Bill James rubric, but if there is one unquantifiable right now that looks different from the team that got routed by the Tigers and Padres, it’s that the smiles are back, no matter how many nightmares they may give you.

Chaos Ball has proved itself a fickle mistress before, and unsustainability is its calling card. For however long it sticks around this time, enjoy the ride.